Real Men Dare Also in Times of COVID. And Put Themselves in DangerMEN'S ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOR MAY HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THEIR HIGHER VULNERABILITY AND MORTALITY. A SURVEY IN 8 OECD COUNTRIES SHOWS THAT THEY ARE LESS LIKELY THAN WOMEN TO CONSIDER THE CORONAVIRUS A SERIOUS PROBLEM, LESS LIKELY TO AGREE WITH PUBLIC POLICIES AND MORE LIKELY TO DISREGARD THEM
Men’s lower compliance with coronavirus-related policies may be one of the reasons of the higher vulnerability and mortality they have recorded in the initial phase of the epidemic versus women. “Policy makers who promote reduced mobility, face masks and other behavioral changes as the new normal for the next months”, says Vincenzo Galasso, one of the authors of a new study addressing gender differences in the reaction to COVID-19, “should, then, design differential communication by gender if they want to increase men’s compliance”.
The article, part of the international project REPEAT (REpresentations, PErceptions and ATtitudes on the COVID-19) includes among its six authors two Bocconi scholars, Vincenzo Galasso and Paola Profeta, affiliated to the COVID Crisis Lab. It has been published in PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
The authors observe substantial gender differences in both attitudes and behavior through a survey in two waves (March and April 2020), with 21,649 respondents in Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the UK and the US.
Women across the world are more likely than men to consider COVID-19 a very serious health problem (59% vs. 48.7% in March and 39.6% vs. 33% in April), are more likely to agree with public policies contrasting the pandemic such as mobility restrictions and social distancing (54.1 vs. 47.7 in an index ranging from 1 to 100 in March and 42.6 vs. 37.4 in April) and are markedly more likely to follow the COVID-19 rules (88.1% vs. 83.2% in March and 77.6% in March vs. 71.8% in April).
“The strongest difference between men and women is coughing into one’s elbow, which is the one behavior which only serves the purpose of protecting others, whereas others can protect both oneself and others”, Professor Profeta says.
Gender differences persist even after controlling for a large number of sociodemographic characteristics and psychological factors. They are lower among younger individuals and increase as people become older. In addition, the gender difference in compliance with health and social distancing measures is lower among people with a higher income.
Finally, differences in beliefs and behavior between men and women are smaller among married couples, who live together and share their views with each other, and among individuals more directly exposed to the pandemic. They decrease over time, if both groups are exposed to the same flow of information about the pandemic.
Vincenzo Galasso, Vincent Pons, Paola Profeta, Michael Becher, Sylvain Brouard, Martial Foucault, “Gender Differences in COVID-19 Attitudes and Behavior: Panel Evidence from Eight Countries”, in PNAS, first published October 15, 2020, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2012520117.
by Fabio Todesco